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Sotheby's Hong Kong to Hold Fine Chinese Paintings Spring Sale 2009 on April 5
Fu Baoshi’s Electric Towers (est. HK$600,000 – 800,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s forthcoming Fine Chinese Painting Spring Sale 2009 will be held on 5th April 2009 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sale will present exceptional works by outstanding artists from 19th to 20th century, comprising of collections namely ‘Reminiscence – 35 Years of Chinese Paintings in Sotheby’s Hong Kong’, ‘Exquisite Works from the Meijing Studio’, ‘Qi Baishi – Paintings from an Important Private Collection’, ‘Refined Elegance – Paintings from the Late Qing Royal Clan’, ‘Art of New China – Paintings after 1949’ and etc.. The total of 250 lots is expected to fetch approximately HK$70 million.

C.K. Cheung, Sotheby’s Head of Chinese Paintings, said, “Over the past 35 years, Sotheby’s selection of Chinese paintings has been exclusively based on quality, artistic standards, innovativeness and thematic uniqueness. For our auction this season, we have selected a portfolio marked by a diversity of subject matters and substantial artistic accomplishments. These include the works that were put up for auction in previous 35 years, such as Wu Changshuo’s Gourds and Chrysanthemum, Li Keran’s Mount Jiuhua; 7 paintings of Wu Hufan and his disciples; Qi Baishi’s works from an important private collection; the works of the four members of Pine Breeze Art Society namely Pu Jin, Pu Ru, Pu Quan and Qi Gong; Fu Baoshi’s Electric Towers, a work painted after 1949 and Twin Trees, a 19th century painting by Ren Xiong. With an exquisite line-up of fine Chinese paintings by prominent modern artists, the coming auction will offer unprecedented opportunities for collectors to acquire these important works.”

Reminiscence – 35 Years of Chinese Paintings in Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sotheby’s has been operating in Hong Kong for 35 years. Over the years, we have consistently maintained an uncompromising approach towards art and its appreciation, which has garnered a strong following of collectors who share the same belief. This year, we specially selected 35 Chinese paintings from our past sales, forming this collection. All the paintings chosen attest to the relationship of trust between the auction house and connoisseurs. Encompassing a broad range of artistic styles, including the legacies of the Beijing, Shanghai and Lingnan schools alongside a mix of the innovative and traditional, this group of seminal works are no older than the 20th century. But all the same, they represent the finest examples of art ever to emerge in the recent history of China.

Executed by Wu Changshuo in 1925 at the age of 82, Gourds and Chrysanthemum (est. HK$800,000 – 1.2 million) reveals his effortless mastery of brush techniques. Portrayed in this painting is a mass of intertwining branches and vines, deftly contrasted with large-sized gourds cascading down like strings of cherry-like beads. A few red chrysanthemums are set against the yellowish gourds to brilliant colour effects. While there is an unruly quality to the tangle of foliage depicted by Wu with apparent ease, the crisscrossing and overlapping lines connected by a fluid, unbroken sequence of brushworks are made possible only by decades of disciplined practice!

Painted in 1979, Li Keran’s masterpiece Mount Jiuhua (est. HK$2.8 – 4 million) was exhibited in Hong Kong, Taipei, Kaohsiung and Beijing, and showcased in a variety of publications dedicated to his works. Completed after the artist’s tour of Mount Jiuhua in 1978, this is one of the two paintings that bear a realistic likeness to the destination. Other works by Li to document his personal travels generally bear a similar pictorial composition. Of the two works inspired by Mount Jiuhua, this painting is executed on a larger format filled with details of scenic variations. On the left of the painting is the illustration of a craggy mountain edge, with the silhouette of its shape and terrain clearly visible. Eye-catching but never ostentatious, the overall composition is suffused with light tones of green and blue to depict the gentle, illuminating glow of sunlight after a drizzle.

Exquisite Works from The Meijing Studio Collection
This collection features 7 paintings by Wu Hufan and his students, revolving around a myriad of subject matters, from figures to flowers, birds, mountains and lakes. A comprehensive array of artistic skills is demonstrated, including classical brushwork techniques that reflect the artists’ traditional upbringing. Alongside two pairs of calligraphic couplets by Wu, the works of Wang Jiqian, Lu Bangda, Zhou Renyuan and Lu Yifei are also represented. All these paintings reveal a profound depth of painting expertise in Wu and his disciples; the loving relationship between Wu and his wife; as well as fraternal bonds in the artistic community of his times.

Wu Hufan painted Nymph of the River (est. HK$350,000 - 450,000) in 1915, with a calligraphic inscription from his wife Pan Jingshu based on a short excerpt of the Verse on Nymph of Luo River. As Wu himself indicated in calligraphy, he had never painted ladies before, so this is the only work by him to touch on such a subject. This painting is exceptionally rare not only due to the unusual subject matter adopted, but also because it is a loving collaboration by the Wus, probably one of their earliest, undertaken shortly after their marriage. Emerging from the waters, the Nymph of River Luo, her feet stepping on rippling waves, is strikingly portrayed through delicate and eloquent lines reflecting the artist’s meticulous approach to painting in his youthful years. Prominent in this work, too, are the imprints of different seals carved by none other than the artist, bearing the words ‘Jingshu’ and ‘Partnership of Hufan and Jingshu’, which are rarely seen in his other compositions. Following the death of his wife, Wu remounted the painting, but before doing so, added in the words ‘past happiness’ in a calligraphic inscription. It was then preserved in the Meijing Studio until given away to his niece Xu Yue (1916 – 2000).

Qi Baishi- Paintings from an Important Private Collection
Hailing from a rural background, Qi Baishi painted Farm Rack (est. HK$1.5 – 2 million) in 1927. Although he gained extensive fame in the capital city in China during his adult years, he often revisited his childhood memories for artistic inspiration. As a form of agricultural equipment, farm racks were an unlikely subject in Chinese paintings. But it was a motif apt enough for Qi, whose sense of child-like wonder and utter lack of pretensions still prevailed in his old age. The centrepiece here is a long-handled plough placed vertically, without embellishments of any sort. It is painted in black ink, sans the slightest hint of colour, and with the swift and decisive brushstrokes that Qi executed in one go. For balance and to break the monotony of composition simplicity, two calligraphic passages have been added, one on either side of the painting. Currently, a similar work, titled Second Painting of Farm Rack, is exhibited at the Beijing Art Institute, but this only serves to accentuate the originality and value of this auction item. Farm Rack was previously owned by famous American collector Alice Boney (1901 – 1988) and Hong Kong collector Yeung Wing Tak. It was also displayed at The World of Qi Baishi exhibition held in the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei in 2002.

Refined Elegance – Paintings from the Late Qing Royal Clan
This collection includes the works of Pu Jin, Pu Ru, Pu Quan and Qi Gong, members of the Pine Breeze Art Society. Among them are distinguished album by Pu Ru, Snowscape; Calligraphy (est. HK$550,000 – 700,000) though all are rendered with a small fine brush. Also on offer is expert horse painter Pu Quan’s Six Steeds (est. HK$50,000 – 70,000). The work not only captures the true beauty of equine creatures but also evokes the spirit of Chinese artistic traditions. Painted in 1940, Qi Gong’s Autumn Pines (est. HK$180,000 – 250,000) is a delicately painted work influenced by the aesthetic styles of Song and Yuan dynasties. Noted for its meticulous composition and use of ink, it marks the pinnacle of Qi’s artistic prowess. Another auction highlight is House of Treasures (est. HK$180,000 – 250,000) by Pu Jin who lavished extraordinary care and attention on the layout and ink effects, with the calligraphies of other celebrated artists imprinted at the bottom of the scroll.

Art of New China - Paintings After 1949
1949 marked a turning point in the contemporary history of China. Drastic political upheavals ushered in a new society, with successive waves of reforms in the various facets of politics, the economy and society. Art was not immune to these changes. After all, it was a longstanding mission of Chinese artists to serve the needs of changing times with their craft. Highlighting this collection are more than 10 artworks, in which the subject matters and artistic forms portrayed shed light on the sweeping vicissitudes in that era, whether their subject matter was based on revolutionary sites, celebrity homes, industrial and agricultural production, political incidents, the poetic compositions by Mao Zedong or changes in political regime. Furthermore, there were also fresh experimentations with brush techniques. While still-life drawing was a staple among these works, it is evident that attempts were made to explore the classical painting skills to novel effects. Many artists also gradually established their own unique styles. Hence, the transformations mirrored by this category of artworks are not only confined to the themes of revolution and politics but extended to other broader areas.

Fu Baoshi’s Electric Towers (est. HK$600,000 – 800,000) is, without doubt, one of his most representative works. In June 1961, he set off to Northeastern China on a painting tour. For four months, until his return to Beijing towards the end of September, he visited Changchun, Jilin, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Changbaishan, Harbin, Lake Jingbo, Shenyang and Luda. Seizing the opportunity for creative improvisation during his journey, he applied classical painting techniques on real-life subject matter, which spawned a body of excellent works, including this painting. Later in his memoirs, Fu recounted how, while travelling downhill in a vehicle, he spotted the impressive vestiges of industrialization – electric towers – against Dalian’s magnificent landscape. Dipping the worn-out dip of his brush in ink, he made quick sketches of the maze of high-voltage cables overhead and completed Electric Towers.

In addition, the auction also offers a group of 19th century works, including famous names from the Shanghai school - Ren Yi, Ren Xiong, Zhao Zhiqian, Qian Hui’an, Gu Yun, etc. Among them is Ren Xiong’s Entwined Trees (est. HK$400,000 - 600,000), completed in 1849 when the artist was 26 years old. An art prodigy, he accomplished the work with a clear thematic focus, combined with a clean, streamlined composition, whereby the two trees delineated stand side by side, with interlocking branches and foliages as though in an intimate embrace. Conjured by forcefully executed lines and ink shades of varying darkness, the twin trees exude the austere presence of ancient woods. On balance, the grasp of techniques demonstrated in this artwork is mature beyond the artist’s youthful years. Previously owned by Wu Dacheng and Wu Hufan, this painting drew critical acclaim at the In Pursuit of Antiquities: 40th Anniversary Exhibition of the Min Chiu Society exhibition held in Hong Kong Museum of Art in 2001.





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